Interlude 42: The Theater
At the same time that Queen Elizbeth of England was helping to establish her nation as a maritime power throughout the world--aided as she was by such famous captains as Drake, Frobisher, Hawkins and the like--another type of flourishing was taking place in that country. This was the theater, especially the stage plays of William Shakespeare and others.
This theater stands a full three stories in height, with tall outside walls surrounding it like an arena. It is built entirely of wood and open to the sky above, with regularly spaced narrow windows that provide fresh air and sunlight to the cast, crew and spectators alike.
Broad double doors provide an entrance to the theater. They are locked at times when no rehearsals or performances are taking place (details); otherwise, they are open to the public.
This open area has no roof overhead, and the floor is nothing more than packed earth. Visitors may pay a much smaller sum to stand here, and such individuals are known as groundlings.
Most of the people who attend shows at the theater stand in this area, with a railing in front of them and a roof over their heads. There are also stairs that lead up to the second and third levels.
4. The Stage
This area is raised five feet above ground level. There are a number of trapdoors that provided access to the under-stage area, along with doors leading to the backstage part of the theater. What is more, a curtained alcove provides an area for actors who need to make dramatic entrances during particular scenes.
During productions, the actors and stage hands who are involved can ready themselves back here, and a show's director is almost always present. The ground level opens directly onto the stage, while the second level features a balcony for certain dramatic scenes. The top level is generally used for storage, including old costumes and props and the like.
In order to make certain special effects work, there are a number of trapdoors that lead down to this area. The spiral stairs from the backstage area also lead down here.
Detailed here are just a few of the characters whom the PC's might encounter at the theater.
Expert 7; CR 2; Size medium; HD 7d6-7; hp 20; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 11 (+1 Dex); Atk +5 (1d6, cudgel) or +6 (ranged); AL NG; SV: Fort +1, Ref +3, Will +6; Str 10, Dex 13, Con 8, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 16.
Skills: Bluff +13, Craft (writing) +12, Disguise +13, Gather Information +13, Knowledge (local) +12, Listen +13, Perform (act) +15, Sense Motive +11, Spot +13.
Feats: Alertness, Guidance, Skill Focus (Perform: act), Skill Mastery (Perform: act).
Equipment: Costume, script, props.
The director is a strong personality amidst a group of individuals. As such, he can be demanding and controlling--but he is also highly skilled in his craft.
Expert 3; CR 2; Size medium; HD 3d6-3; hp 10; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 11 (+1 Dex); Atk +2 (1d6, cudgel) or +3 (ranged); AL NG; SV: Fort +0, Ref +2, Will +4; Str 10, Dex 13, Con 8, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 15.
Skills: Bluff +8, Craft (various) +8, Disguise +8, Gather Information +8, Knowledge (local) +8, Listen +9, Perform (act) +11, Sense Motive +7, Spot +9.
Feats: Alertness, Skill Focus (Perform: act), Skill Mastery (Perform: act).
Equipment: Costume, script, props.
Each of these actors is an experienced veteran, hand-selected by the director for this production. While the actors all have different personalities, it's a safe bet that they are all dramatic in their own way. As is traditional, they are all men; when a script calls for a female character, one of the men dresses the part.
Using the Theater in a Campaign
The theater could be used in a Skull & Bones campaign in many different ways; a few of the possibilities are detailed here.
- When they have some downtime, the PC's might just want to watch a show here.
- At such a time, the PC's might happen to be present when a murder occurs.
- The theater could provide a good place to meet illicit contacts, especially if a performance includes a masquerade for the guests.
- It could happen that an ambitious shantyman or similar character (such as Llewellyn, from "The Mermaid's Tale" and "Fortune & Glory," or Durwin Oswald Chatwick, mentioned in a previous interlude) writes a play based on the deeds of one or more of the PC's. This could be a flattering story, or one that is slanderous to the character(s) in question.
- Should a production prove to be controversial, the director might need to hire the PC's to help keep the peace during performances.
- The structure of the arena provides a good opportunity for some swashbuckling combat, in the event that it should become necessary.
- If any PC possesses magical ability, that character might be recruited to provide special effects for a production.